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Book Reviews

I Want to Feel Happy but I Only Feel _____.
Mallory Smart

This book doesn’t celebrate the fact that like the rest of us, Mallory Smart doesn’t have a lot of actual answers. Art doesn’t guarantee that, no matter how good you are. I Want to Feel Happy is a very good body of work from a very good writer. Part of that is because Smart is both attracted to and repelled by concrete answers---or conclusions that may be traumatic, even fatal, but are at least conclusions nonetheless. She decimates her life with a level of honesty that could chew other people’s teeth. She then rebuilds, and starts over. That path could take her anywhere, and I am pleased that she is taking us along for the decimation. 

William Seward Bonnie

Available from Cheeseburger Nebula Press, Do$e from William S. Bonnie is a stark, almost madden travelogue. This isn’t just because Bonnie’s latest poetry collection references travel at great length, with the distance achieved by chemical means, and/or through a hyper-focused desire for freedom. It is also because the book drinks deep from Bonnie’s memories, anxieties, and ambitions, and then spits them out, creating a miraculously careful mess. Bon’ Voyage is just one example of Bonnie making us equal parts uncomfortable and captivated, as he breathes his own unique, vital brand of life into the familiar roads he describes. Seward might be exhausted, but his writing is dangerously alert. 

Bad Anatomy
E. Kristin Anderson

Hannah Cohen’s Bad Anatomy puts its viscera on the table—this is today’s chapbook for punk rock girls, pulling the reader through starlight, road trips, and the gynecologist’s office. Cohen’s concise lyrical precision is a poet wielding a rusty scalpel as she imagines she is a television, finds herself down a gory Google rabbit hole, and menstruates for the loss of the America we’d hoped for. As she says in Sad Girl’s Drinking Ghazal she “[likes] things both false and true.” And such are these poems: Stories that have gathered here to eat you whole and fill you up.

Emily Corwin

Emily Corwin’s tenderling glows in the forest while bleeding sugary doll blood. Here, lovers wound themselves & their beloveds. Festooned with acute language, sound, & line-breaking, Corwin’s poems warn about The Dark. About Prozac & the hollows of trees. Ancient witches & modern boggarts such as mobile data both vex as Corwin sticks magic pins into dolls woven of liminal, earnest human sensibility. A complete journey, tenderling’s first word, “if”, unlocks a faerie realm of possibility. The last phrase—"dead gardens”—epitomizes a pungent, codependent marriage between bloom & rot readers witness betwixt brambles as constant, fragile light streams through. 

Slut Songs
Jade Hurter

Slut Songs is a deep catalog of tribute to a complex word. The title of this mesmerizing, potentially triggering collection from Jade Hurter represents shared songs of the horrors women collectively face, and understand in near-unison. Those who already have these songs of their own will pick up on the intense, evocative language, and the rhythm of a survivor who will not be trivialized. It’s easy to read poems like “Self-Portrait, Age Nineteen” and “Red Song”, call them brave, and just stick with that. Bravery engages us. Poems that balance rage with anxious, soothing calm, which are the poems of Slut Songs, demand something more than that. They have every right to ask us for everything we have.